Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 29, 2012

Unit 50 survey seeks input on cuts

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

TEUTOPOLIS — Unit 50 school district residents have about two weeks to complete a survey designed to solicit input on how the school district will function in light of severe financial issues.

    The survey asks resident opinion on cuts that could be made without reducing the quality of a Unit 50 education. Questions cover extra-curricular activities, including athletics; potential closing of Teutopolis Junior High School; academic electives; and transportation cuts.

    One section of the survey deals with tax and fee issues, including whether district residents would support a property tax hike and increases in a host of student fees.

    The survey can be taken electronically by going to the district website at www.teutopolisschools.org and clicking on a link to the survey. Those without computer access can pick up the survey at the Unit 50 office adjacent to Teutopolis High School or call 217-857-3535.

    Deadline for completion is noon Nov. 8.

    Superintendent Bill Fritcher said residents can use the survey to express their opinion on the direction that an estimated $1 million in cuts should take. The Unit 50 Board has directed Fritcher to make that amount of cuts in time for the 2013-14 school year.

    “We need to see where the values of the community are,” Fritcher said. “People need to tell us where they want the school district to focus its energies.

    “We’re just going to determine what the community will accept as far as cuts that may have to be made.”

    Fritcher warned the survey was not scientific.

    “This survey is far from scientific,” he said. “If I wanted a scientific survey, I would have spent big bucks and hired a consultant.

    “But that would have been hypocritical.”

    The Unit 50 board recently approved a 2012-13 budget that includes a deficit of nearly $1.2 million, a figure district officials have said is not sustainable.

    Fritcher said unless major cuts are made — or additional revenues are found — Unit 50 will have less than a year of reserves left in its education fund, the fund through which teacher salaries are paid.

    Moreover, general state aid to the district has been dropping because of the state’s budget crisis, declining enrollment and continued increases in the value of property within the district.

    Fritcher said he wants Unit 50 residents to know that other school districts have the same issues.

    “I think when folks look around and see it’s not Teutopolis, they will understand why we are conducting the survey,” he said. “Every school district is feeling the pinch.”

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.